It’s incredibly disappointing to see the results of the latest research from the World Health Organization (WHO), revealing that very little progress has been made in reducing levels of physical inactivity worldwide.
The WHO report (which analysed data from surveys in 168 countries and 1.9 million people) estimates that more than a quarter of people worldwide (1.4 billion) are not doing enough physical exercise. And the risks of inactivity are pretty serious – the increased chance of health issues such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer.
Perhaps most damning is that the UK scored particularly badly. In fact, high-income countries, in general, were among the least active.
Who is classed as inactive? Those who did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise – or 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity – every week.
The UK’s worryingly poor performance
This report comes after a report from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) revealed more than 20 million people in the UK are physically inactive, and a further study suggesting a lack of exercise is causing as many deaths as smoking across the world.
The BHF report warned of the dangers of inactivity, which costs the NHS around £1.2bn each year:
- In the UK, physical inactivity contributes to almost one in 10 premature deaths from coronary heart disease and one in six deaths from any cause.
- Three-quarters of people in England (76%), when referred for rehabilitation after suffering a heart attack or having heart surgery, are considered physically inactive.
- More than 5 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death.
“Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and, combined, these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health and risk of early death.
“Evidence shows keeping physically active can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by as much as 35% and risk of early death by as much as 30%.”Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF
Recommended levels of exercise
The WHO recommends people to take part in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
Moderate exercise includes fast walking, cycling on flat ground and hiking.
What is vigorous intensity activity?
Cycling and running an answer?
If we are to improve the UK’s levels of physical activity and health, cycling and running can be at the forefront of positive change.